Karolina Lewandowska 2017-11-13 12:48:00
All hands on deck! Or, in my case, the deck log, a chronological record of the operation of the ship. Its primary purpose is to serve as the ship’s official, legal daily record. It’s written by sailors and submitted to the archive after a month’s worth of logs have been completed. As the archivist at the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), I process anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 deck log pages a week. Yes, pages. Yes, paper. A History of Paper In October 2016, the NHHC Histories and Archives Division (HAD) was asked to revise the procedure that governs the preparation and submission of deck logs (in the parlance of the Navy, OPNAVINST 3100.7C). Originally, the objective was to simply update the procedure and include a digital component. A survey of the 2016 collection indicated that 74% of deck logs are written by hand. Of this, 67% are written on paper and submitted as paper, and 7% are scanned and emailed as a PDF. Digitally created deck logs can be divided into three categories: digitally created but printed out and physically signed by the end of the watch (12%); digitally created with digital signatures but printed out and submitted (5%); or digitally created with digital signatures and submitted via CD/DVD (9%). While the current procedure mentions electronic deck logs, no prescribed method is given. The 9% that are digitally created with digital signatures and submitted to HAD via CD/DVD were determined best practice examples. Reaching out and working with these ships was key to revising the instruction. Including Sailor Feedback Potentially, I could have drawn conclusions based on my own digital knowledge, but I didn’t have the fundamental understanding of what happens during the creation of the deck logs by the sailors. So how does one seek input from the fleet? Simply put, you ask. I emailed each commanding officer. Of twenty ships, only four responded—a low response rate and a tiny representation of the entire U.S. Navy fleet. This was uncharted territory for not only the archives but the fleet as well. We had never worked together before. This tiny representation of the fleet provided me with close to 400 pages of documents, including training materials and standard operational materials. They answered countless emails over the course of several months. One commanding officer even sent sailors to the Navy Yard to help work on the instruction with me. Writing It All Down One section of OPNAVINST 3100.7C contained examples of common ship entries, but only through text descriptions. One of the ship’s training materials used examples presented in a deck log page, which was a much more effective way to display them and inspired the rewrite. While the number and types of examples I could include were reduced by this decision, the overall benefit outweighed the loss. In one of the early email exchanges with the ships, a sailor mentioned that the military has a culture that “if it’s not written down or in an instruction, make it up.” This became an important mantra for the rewrite. Every addition and deletion to the instruction was questioned in terms of “if it’s not written down, will they make it up?” This mantra really helped to facilitate the balance of being clear without being long-winded. In December 2016, a commanding officer allowed his sailors to visit the Navy Yard and talk deck logs. At this time, I was working on draft version 25! A discussion arose about the Memorandum for the Record. The OPNAVINST 3100.7 series had never addressed the issue of missing pages, yet it is the most common question from the fleet. What ships have been doing is sending the memorandum on letterhead. I assumed just mentioning this as an option would be enough. The sailors indicated that an example would be needed in the instruction, which resulted in the creation of another section. This discussion also assured me that I was on the right track. The sailors were impressed with the systematic, line-by-line rewrite and fully supported this direction. This feedback was an important confidence booster. Each new version of the rewrite was slowly creating something new. Previous instructions often seemed to include additions with little consideration of their placement in the document, but this was methodical change. I was nervous as to how the fleet would respond, but the discussion paved the way for another twenty revisions before it was released. Keys to Success I believe humility was the key to creating a successful partnership, resulting in access to nearly 400 pages of documents. The observation that OPNAVINST 3100.7C was problematic for all parties involved resulted in genuine feedback from the four ships, which ultimately created better quality instruction. All commissioned U.S. Navy ships follow this instruction, so it’s most important that the thousands of sailors using it understand it. The work of developing the successor instruction—OPNAVINST 3100.7D—has been gratifying and I’m very proud of what has been accomplished. That being said, OPNAVINST 3100.7E is already in the works. The fleet is busy doing what they do best. However, each question, issue, or concern brought to my attention is being flagged as a possible clarification for the next rewrite or something to be included in the internal SharePoint, which will actively engage sailors’ feedback without having to be involved in an actual rewrite process. Shipshape for sure!
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